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Review: Rage

– November 09, 2011; Harrison Dahme, Howl Staff

If you’re of the gaming persuasion you’ll know of Rage, the latest game to come out of id Studios, the guys who brought us Doom and Quake. When I was a young man I just took games at face value and didn’t appreciate that studios were actually trying to push the envelopes of computing, and they were just doing it through games. Some are made to be hits and focus on good game play – these are typically made by Blizzard; some are made to be vehicles for a new experiment in computing. The two classes aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but knowing what a game is trying to accomplish can bring to light some of its weaker points. So I shall preface this review by telling you, dear reader, that if you are planning on starting it, start it now, before Skyrim. That is, if you haven’t gotten neck deep into Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3.

So I’ve mentioned that some games aren’t meant to be games. “C’est quoi?!” With Rage, id was pushing the limit with textures. It used to be the case that textures were small blocks reproduced across a map so that there was inevitably some repetition. Here, the experiment is with megatextures, textures which can wrap across an entire map so that every space can be unique. It’s no surprise then that this game looks amazing. From the second I came out of the vault, I was floored by how good the world looked after being smashed by an asteroid.

Post-apocalyptic civilizations are always sexy

Immediately you’re fleeing bandits and trying to avoid detection by the Enclave. Err, Authority. As I put in a couple more hours I was déjà vu-ing to Fallout and Borderlands. And while I was constantly picking my jaw up off the floor because of how good it looked, I kept wanting more. This game is relatively short – maybe 8 hours of single player, so in that respect it’s perfect as the missions eventually get a little repetitive. But things move fast, so the player is constantly rewarded with the feeling that they’re making a difference in the game world. Little things change in what would otherwise be static areas as time progresses. As good as that all sounds though, I was expecting a more rewarding conclusion. There was a level of consistency throughout the whole story, but as it was ending I felt a little disappointment eating away at my belly.

The other thing I noticed, and maybe this is a product of me trying to figure out the method behind the madness (Bungie, hire me please!), but as Rage progresses the enemies don’t get smarter – they just get tougher. Until the point where I eventually had to unload a clip into a helmetless guy charging me to get any kind of reaction. After that I just switched to using my fists. There is a certain kind of difficulty I’ve come to appreciate though, where the sense of satisfaction comes from outsmarting your enemy. Still, tougher doesn’t mean smarter.

Finally, the developers did a great job of making a world which looked great and had a fantastic back story. Problem is, there is so much unrealized potential. Rage is one of those games which I would have loved to put a whole bunch of time into, exploring the world and learning its myths and legends. Where I would want to go out into the world and see the crumbling remnants of mankind’s great cities. But in spite of the effort and soul the world-builders put into the game (and in spite of the internet raving about Rage) I left the game with the impression that Bethesda and id were out to make a generally good shooter and leave it at that. If that was their goal, then they executed it perfectly. Boy, am I ever looking forward to Skyrim.


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